This bulkhead’s built of fallen brethren bones (The Vampire Diaries 2.12, The Descent)

This week in Mystic Falls (except it’s never a week, is it? Today in Mystic Falls…) lives are ruined, blood is shed, and there’s even an attempt to span years and continents in flashback form. You may judge for yourself how epic it is…

Well, if that’s what I get for complaining about disjointedness and lack of episode plot in the previous few episodes, clearly I should do it more often. Because this week, we had a plot alright, and that plot was called Let’s Break Damon. Hurrah! Rarely, if ever, a bad move in my opinion. (Disclaimer: I do not live in Mystic Falls. My opinion may be geographically biased.)

So. Rose. She died.

And that was really all that happened. Yes, there was peripheral stuff with Stefan being busy finding the wrong Elena parental, and everybody awesomely kissing Caroline, but 80% of the episode revolved around this: a woman who should have died five centuries ago finally did so.

It shouldn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things, right? Should barely even hurt, when you’ve lived so long. Rose tries to rationalise it that way, that she’s lived longer than she should have done, she can die now – even as she feels like she wasted most of her life. And if she can face it, it certainly shouldn’t be a problem for Damon, who’s only known her for a few weeks, who causes death on a regular basis without batting an eyelid, who swears to the world that none of it matters.

Now, Damon’s defensive facade is well known to any audience member at this point. I’d say we even have a better grasp on his character than Elena, as I nearly told her to shut up when she started telling him that he was ‘so close’ to feeling things. Of course he feels things, nitwit. He feels them so intensely that he snaps people’s necks occasionally, remember? Stefan had a much better grasp on it back in the season premiere when he said he wasn’t going to let Katherine destroy ‘that part of you that is finally willing to feel something.’ Not able: willing. It’s been the process of the whole last season and a half for Damon – starting to want to feel things again, slowly allowing it to happen, keeping it as well hidden as he could unless it turned out to be a giant mistake.

Which it would definitely seem to be, when you suddenly have to deal with the feelings which accompany having to kill the first person in a very long time to offer you friendship without judgement. But here’s the kicker, Damon: I don’t think you can get rid of it now. Rose told you as much, but your actions shout it from the rooftop too. If you could actually switch off your feelings again, there’d be no need to kill people just to prove to yourself that you’re not human – you’d know it. There’d be no need for an existential crisis, you’d just happily eat the remaining inhabitants of Virginia.

So far, so obvious. I winced a little at the overly tell-not-show nature of some of Damon’s lines during that final scene – he misses being human? Really? I absolutely believe that he misses his human life as was, but making such a division between human and vampire – one all purity and light, one temptation and darkness – is too simplistic for a show where half its main characters are vampires to sustain. Caroline, in particular, has shown that a vampire can be a better person than most humans. So having Damon emote all over his victim of the night about how he misses it just felt off, somehow. But when I ignore the surface details which annoyed me – such as the set-up with Damon lying in the road, taken from the very first episode, which I didn’t feel was earned as an echo here – the substance of this scene is powerful and well-substantiated. Damon, after all, is the brother who didn’t want to be a vampire for its own sake, who tried to refuse the compelled victim pushed at him, who keeps a story about the Civil War era by his bed, who has been unable to leave his only remaining family member alone through all the decades since. This episode made me wonder, for the first time, whether he wonders about the life he lost. Would he have married, inherited the Salvatore estate, had children, guided his family and the town through the aftermath of the war? Do any of those young man’s thwarted ambitions still live at the back of his mind? Possibly.

So Damon is a lost little boy, as all the best anti-heroes are. And Rose, for this episode at least, is his little lost girl. I didn’t want to see her go, since I got quite fond of her in the end, but she got a lovely send-off, so I guess I’m happy. I would be happier if the writers had bothered to do a single bit of research on where St Austell actually is, what it looks like and whether a 540-yr-old Brit would ever give distances in kilometres – but hey. She was brilliantly crazy/apologetic during her psycho phase, and much as Elena not escaping from the house was extremely stupid I did love the badassery of her standing in the sunlight with her stake at the ready. And the dream sequence, of course, was beautifully done, particularly her infectious joy in it all. Farewell, Rose. You were fun.

Hmm. The episode may have been surprisingly coherent, but I do not feel like my review of it has been. I get rambly when trying to put words around Damon. But to wrap up the other loose ends of the episode: werewolf drama continues to escalate. I’m glad Tyler knows now that Caroline isn’t telling the whole truth, but I hope she’s proven she’s on his side enough for him to give her some benefit of the doubt. Jules herself was written more callous in this episode than almost any other bad guy the show has had (perhaps excluding Uncle John), so hopefully she’ll be dead soon. More werewolves showing up? Meh. We’ll see what they do. Hopefully more of them will kiss Caroline, since Caroline absolutely deserves to be kissed and everybody should acknowledge this. I find myself oddly in love with the Matt/Caroline/Tyler love triangle – I wouldn’t have guessed at the start of the season that I would find Caroline/Tyler the more compelling relationship this year, but I have because they are just on a level now, somehow, where Matt is so non-supernatural and out of the loop that I just can’t see him and Caroline as equals. At the moment, I still love him, but if Matt continues to be completely clueless I may end up entirely on team Tyler. Humans on this show are kind of boring nowadays… oh, except Alaric. More Alaric, please. I liked him being a little defensive about his friendship with Damon when Stefan needled him about it. Speaking of Stefan, though: seriously? Did he care what happened to Rose in the slightest? He has never been the most interested in his so-called friends’ lives, but leaving Damon to just get on with watching her die seems particularly careless even for him.

Sundry observations:

– ooh yeah, Damon’s bedroom. Nice new set. More scenes here, please.

– Uncledaddy John! Yay! Now… why?

– Elena: less and less of a character in her own show, some weeks…

– sunset happens fast in Mystic Falls, doesn’t it? Either that or Damon takes a very long time to get to the Grill and back (without checking his voicemail).

– the effects/make-up crew did a really good job with Rose’s wound. Ick.

– were those car headlights driving up behind Damon in the final scene? If so, whose?

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About Susannah

31-year-old who gave up her day job to go travelling for a few months, theoretically to help her work out what to do with her life. Amazingly enough, that seemed to work, and I am now back in the UK doing a PhD in a different field entirely. No longer posting regular travel blogs, because no longer travelling regularly. Boo.
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4 Responses to This bulkhead’s built of fallen brethren bones (The Vampire Diaries 2.12, The Descent)

  1. cheeky says:

    Much of this we’ve already covered in emails, but I think I just understood your annoyance at the whole “I miss being human” line that resonated so strongly for me. I didn’t see it as him saying “I hate being a monster”, I totally heard it as him saying “I wish I still had a real human life.” Which I think I’ve covered in the email I just sent you, but it did just click with me why you found that so annoying.

    Like I said in my email, the horses standing around wearing rope halters with leads attached while in a field was ridiculous, especially given that they were gone when we zoomed out, it was just there for the close-up. Nobody in their right mind leaves a horse like that in a field unless they want the horse to flip end over end when it stands on the rope and cuts its head open. Sorry, sore point. I assume it was done for reasons of control of horse during closeup, but did that horse look to you like it was going to do anything remotely dangerous? It was half asleep.

    Anyhoo. Breaking Damon is, I agree, a great idea.

    And the writers need to do something with Matt before he vanishes completely into the wallpaper. I’d suggest sending him back to Friday Night Lights, but a) the show only has one episode left, and b) the girl he was on the show to woo has since found a far superior replacement (no offence to Matt, I mean purely from a character perspective, as Cash the cowboy was no Pudding Pop). So…someone at least needs to tell Matt what’s going on.

    Also Jenna, as Elijah could’ve eviscerated Elena and her family if he’d chosen to. Can’t Bonnie put a vampire lock on the house? (And give Damon and Stefan a key, obviously.)

    • biped says:

      Interesting. I heard the line the same way as cheeky, as yearning for something not there anymore, not as a comment on his current ‘condition’.

      If Willow could vampire proof a house, I’m sure a Bennet which can

  2. biped says:

    err, that would be witch

    oh look, I’m cranking up your comments count through my inability to distinguish words

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